Manchester University Press sale

Cover of Frayn, Writing Disenchantment

I hope you’ll all forgive me the self-promotion, but if you don’t yet have a copy of my monograph Writing Disenchantment: British First World War Prose, 1914-1930 (Manchester UP, 2014), the press currently (January 2018) has an 80% off sale on selected titles.  That brings the price down to a manageable £15!

The book discusses the way in which disenchantment comes to be the dominant narrative about the war through the course of the post-war decade; I argue that disenchantment is a condition of modernity, not only a post facto response to the war.  A wide range of popular, middlebrow and modernist authors are covered, from Ernest Raymond to Virginia Woolf via H.G. Wells (and many more).

Aldington’s Death of a Hero takes up a substantial part of my discussion of the War Books Boom in chapter 5.

Andrew Frayn

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Obituary – Shelley Cox, RA bibliographer

Shelley Cox

We’re very sorry to report the death last year of Shelley Cox, a longtime friend of Aldington scholarship.  Her partner’s daughter, Melanie Thomas, writes:

Shelley Marie Cox passed away on August 8, 2017 in Carbondale, IL after a brief illness. Shelley was born in Camden, New Jersey in 1948. She grew up with a love of cats, books, politics and music, passions which she continued to pursue throughout her life. After graduating high school, she attended the University of Pennsylvania where she graduated with honors, then received her Master’s degree in Library Sciences from the University of Chicago in 1974. Her first library position was at Southern Illinois University; she remained there until her retirement over 31 years later, eventually becoming the rare book librarian in the Special Collections department for the SIU library.

Her intelligence and humor made her friends throughout the world who shared her interests. She was also able to follow those interests throughout the country and even internationally as a fan of the Moody Blues and as a member of the Lawrence Durrell International Society and the New Canterbury Literary Society, devoted to the works of Richard Aldington. Although her health prevented her from travelling as much as she wished in her later years, she continued working on research for those organizations.

Shelley is survived by her sister, Marsha Cox, and her longtime partner, Bob Thomas, as well as friends around the world who shared her passions. She will be missed by many.

 

Aldington biographer Vivien Whelpton, who came to know Shelley in recent years, adds:

I came to know Shelley during just three visits to Carbondale over the course of five years, but our regular correspondence between those visits cemented what became for me a very special friendship. We shared not just our Aldington interest, but our love of cats, an interest in music and in television drama – and our political views! In the time I knew her, Shelley was in constant physical pain, through severe arthritis, and she became increasingly immobilized. But she was full of mental energy, passion and humour, and her shrewdness and wit were a constant delight. I always looked forward to her emails. What I shall never forget is the enormous kindness and generosity that she and Bob both extended to me. I have many happy memories of evening meals out and of tours of Southern Illinois at the week-ends when the Morris Library was closed. On my final visit, earlier this year, Bob and Shelley picked me up from my lodgings the day after my arrival to take me grocery shopping, and Shelley brought with her a gift of a battery-operated night light – in case I needed to get up in the night in my unfamiliar surroundings. I find that light indispensable now, whenever I go away. And there was always a gift to take home for my cats!  I constantly miss a very dear friend.

Melinda has sent me the files of Shelley’s Aldington bibliography. It was work that, sadly, she had to give up when her mobility became a problem for her. But those files represent years of work and travel, and I hope to be able to see them reach some form of publication.

Following the blog

As I know there are a variety of ways people engage with the blog, I thought I’d post this reminder about how to follow the site if you would like to receive notifications when new writing is posted.

You don’t have to have a WordPress account to follow the NCLSN blog; you can do so by e-mail.  When you click on the link to the newsletter site, you should see a “follow” button at the bottom right of the screen.  If you click on that, the site will prompt you to enter an e-mail address.  You will then receive notifications to your e-mail when there’s a new post.  It’s quick and easy to do!

The WordPress information on how to follow a blog is here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/following/

Richard Aldington in Leningrad

Michael Copp writes the below, which includes his own translations of extracts from and a précis of an article about one of Aldington’s visits to Russia late in his life.  –AF

D. Moldavsky, ‘Richard Aldington in Leningrad’, Neva, No.5, 1963, pp. 164-67.

We had already read him before the war. The first book of Richard Aldington to reach us was the novel, All Men are Enemies. This was a book full of hatred of war, of a terrible, concentrated anger, and also of love. Love was an oasis in the desert of human feelings. Then we read Death of a Hero and Very Heaven. Richard Aldington stood before us as an exposer of the petty bourgeois of all scales and dimensions. We perceived him as one of the most truthful and the closest to us of Western authors.

Moldavsky was surprised when Aldington asked to see the work of traditional artists such as Levitan. Aldington also expressed a wish to get hold of an album of Rublev [the great icon painter]. He enthused over Russian icons, and compared them favourably with the masterpieces of the Renaissance.

Richard and Catha spent several days in Leningrad. They visited the Kirov stadium, new housing quarters, the Summer Garden, and saw the famous statue of the Bronze Horseman. Aldington commented that only Parisians and Leningraders expressed such love of their city. In the summer garden Aldington showed Catha the statue of Krilov and recounted one of his fables for her benefit.

After a visit to the Russian Museum, Moldavsky presented Aldington with a volume of Russian lubki [popular Russian prints] of the XVII to XIX centuries. Aldington was greatly appreciative of this

extremely interesting book, illustrating Russian folklore.

Aldington was pleasantly struck by the news that his books were widely known and appreciated in Russia. People came up to him to voice their appreciation of his work in the Summer Garden, in the Authors’ Bookshop, and in the Hermitage.

When Aldington heard English voices in the Museum, he seemed to do his utmost to avoid meeting them. Once inside the Hermitage, Aldington paused in the middle of a room and proceeded to identify the painters, not only the famous masters, but also those considered second-rate. Moldavsky refers to Catha as ‘Kat’ throughout, and comments on her vivacity, as a contrast to her father’s more subdued manner. Richard was particularly at home in front of the Italian masters, giving Catha an informative commentary. He was delighted to see so many works by Frans Hals, Raphael, Van Dyck, Rembrandt and Rubens.

When questioned, Aldington dismissed abstract art as rubbish. When asked about Salvador Dali he said that Dali began as a talented artist, and then indulged in all sorts of tricks. Catha disagreed with this verdict. They went the following day again to the Hermitage, this time to see the French section. First, Poussin and Houdon’s statue of Voltaire, standing next to which he was photographed. Then to the rooms of modern art. Moldavsky notes that Aldington was in raptures, faced with so many Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces: Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, etc. Richard sat for a long time in the Picasso room where he told Moldavsky that he had met Picasso on two occasions. They toured this room twice.

Aldington met writers at the House of Creativity in Komarov, went to the ballet, and appeared on television, in front of a group of young people. He told his young audience not to waste time, to take advantage of their opportunities, to use their leisure profitably: study Art, read books. Moldavsky notes that this hectic schedule was tiring for Aldington, and he was taken back to his hotel to rest.

They went to a record shop. Aldington wanted Mussorgsky, Catha wanted the song, ‘Moscow Nights’. Moldavsky recounts the episode here, when a brusquely impatient American customer, anxious to buy a complete set of Beethoven symphonies, demanded to be served first because he was in a hurry. When Aldington asked him why he was in such a hurry, the American replied that he only had three days. Aldington’s reply:

That’s three days more than is necessary.  I’d have thrown you out of here on the first day. You are giving a dreadful impression of your America here. You simply don’t understand where you are.

Just before Aldington died he sent a package to Moldavsky. It was his two-volume translation of the ‘Decameron’. It had been posted the day before Aldington’s death. A month later Moldavsky received the following from Catha:

I will not forget my visit to Leningrad, nor the fact that my father was happy there.

Michael Copp

 

Contributions to NCLSN

Pen, pad and keyboard

Do you have a favourite bit of Aldington that you’d like to highlight? What’s your connection to Aldington and why is he important to you?  Is there a story, poem, or novel that you think is unjustly neglected and you’d like to say something about why? Do you have a rare edition, or think you’ve uncovered something previously unknown? If you can write a few hundred words about it, that would be great!

I would be really glad to receive contributions from members, readers and followers.  I’m keen to widen the spread of contributors – I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but Mike Copp and I generate a lot of content! – and believe that the blog offers a great way to do so.  I can either add you to the blog as an author, or you can e-mail me your piece to afrayn [dot] ac [at] gmail.com.

Andrew Frayn

Aldington and Denison Deasey

Louisa Deasey recently got in contact to tell me about the connection between her father, the author Denison Deasey, and Richard Aldington.  She wrote:

I recently found hundreds of my dad’s diaries and letters in the library in Victoria. There is a lot of correspondence with / diary entries around his time in St Clair when Aldington lived at Aucassin – 1948-1951 particularly. Aldington influenced my dad’s life very strongly, inspiring him to become a writer and draft his first books, encouraging him and writing to him an awful lot until his death in 1962. My dad wrote the memoir “Lunch At The Villa” which was published in 1981, in the Bulletin. It was based on the time he met Aldington and Kershaw was working as his secretary in the south of France.

Louisa is writing a book about her discovery of this archive, which will be published by Scribe in 2018.  She continues:

What set me on the whole treasure hunt for Aucassin / Aldington’s granddaughters was that i found a small pil of black and white photos of Aldington and Catha in France in the 40s and 50s in  dad’s collection. I’d never known who they were of… until I started looking into the library material…

As part of my research, I travelled to St Clair in March. I met a lovely man named Raphael Dupouy there, and he took me to the Villa Aucassin, where Aldington lived, and where dad stayed in 1948/49/50.  I also met Sylvain – Alister Kershaw’s son – in Paris. He really wanted to come with me to Aucassin (he would have been so welcome, as he works as a French/English translator and, as it was, Raphael and I had much difficulty communicating!) but he’d already booked a trip to Spain for the dates I was in Saint Clair.

Raphael Dupouy is the cultural director for Lavandou Tourisme, and he is writing an article on my trip / the Aldington links, which will be published in August. It will be in French, in a publication called Figue Libre – he took some photos of me at Aucassin, too.

That article can be found at the Figue Libre website.  It’s on page 4 of the current issue (no. 39).  You’ll have to dust off your French, though, as Louisa says!

Andrew Frayn

Caroline Zilboorg lecture, Duquesne University

Caroline Zilboorg, NCLSN correspondent and editor of the Aldington – H.D. letters, writes with details of a forthcoming lecture at Duquesne University on 29 September (see image below).  This will be on her current project, a life of her father Gregory Zilboorg, an influential psychoanalyst:

“My current work and these lectures aren’t actually Aldington-related.  However, my father and RA were contemporaries.  The war certainly shaped both their lives and both men were Europeans to the core.  Both men were also very linguistic.  My father spoke and could work in Yiddish, Russian, German, French, Dutch, English, Spanish and Italian.  He was most at home in Russian, French and English.  He had good Latin, too, but unlike Aldington, he had no Greek– his education as a Russian Jew under the Tsar was about as far as from public schools in the UK as one could get.  He was ‘modern’, yet because of life choices (his decision to become a psychoanalyst), he wasn’t really ‘modernist’ (although one could, of course, argue that all of psychoanalysis from Freud through Lacan was and is modernist in the extreme).

“Yet the drama he championed in the late teens and early 20s was certainly modernist– his translation of Andreyev’s quite modernist play He Who Gets Slapped  was first published by The Dial Press in 1921.  Bryher thought my father was fascinating (he was– and charismatic, too, from the podium and in real life).  When she heard my father speak in April 1934 at the International Psychoanalytic Congress in Lucerne, Bryher wrote H.D. that he “spoke brilliantly on suicide.” (Letter from Bryher to H.D., 30 April 1934, in Analyzing Freud: Letters of H.D., Bryher,  and Their Circle, ed. Susan Stanford Friedman, New York: New Directions, 2002, p. 415).  And both RA and GZ were difficult men and easily angered; they both cared so passionately about so many things.”

Zilboorg lecture

An Imagist Footnote

Perhaps the most obscure name to whom the loose label of Imagist can be applied is that of Max Michelson. He is not included in Peter Jones’s Imagist Poetry (1972) or in Bob Blaisdell’s Imagist Poetry: An Anthology (1999). The only modern anthology in which he is represented is William Pratt’s The Imagist Poem: Modern Poetry in Miniature (2001):

Midnight

Midnight. The air is still,

And yet there seems to be a sound

Brooding in it, tearing. I hear it

With all my quivering body

But not with my ears.

Suddenly it bursts – muffled, hoarse, detached

From any earthly object.

It is spring

Charging through the night.

Michelson (1880-1953) had a short-lived connection to Imagism. For example, a few of his poems were first published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse in 1915, and in Others. In The Egoist, Vol. 3, December 1916, there were seven of his poems, then in January 1917, three more.

The account of his life and work is to be found in a slim book edited by his grandson, Peter Michelson: The Extant Poetry and Prose of Max Michelson, Imagist (1880-1953) (Edwin Mellen Press, 2000). In a biographical sketch he tells us that his grandfather’s already fragile mental state disintegrated completely in 1920 and he was interned for the next 33 years of his life in a state mental hospital. This sad story is fleshed out by Peter Michelson with the complete extant poems, and a handful of articles, reviews and letters – just 113 pages in total.

Michael Copp